by CIO Staff

IT’s Last Stand Against Consumer Tech

Feb 15, 20073 mins
Consumer Electronics

“Don’t fight the evolutionary process…. The technology is here, the demand is high, and the end-user community is installing it now….

“The changes in computing that end users are demanding will have a positive impact on your business. Yet, left alone, end users will not be able to maintain the quality and security of your company’s information.”

These quotes come not from Ben Worthen’s cover story, “Users Who Know Too Much,” Page 40, but from a column that ran in CIO more than 15 years ago, in December 1991, called “End (User) Game,” about managing end-user computing in a distributed as opposed to a mainframe computing environment. While the issues may sound similar (history does have a way of repeating itself), the appropriate response couldn’t be more different. Fifteen years ago, author David O’Brien counseled readers, appropriately, that “all hardware [and software] connected to the network should be approved by and installed under the guidance of IS.” Further, “Bulletin board–style programs should never be allowed because of the risk of computer viruses.” The advice went on in that vein, using phrases like “should conform,” “should be approved” and so forth. Contrast that to Worthen’s warning that “prohibiting nonstandard technologies is a doomed strategy.”

When truly significant shifts take place, there is a tendency for camps to polarize. Those with a vested interest in the change argue that everything is different and the old rules no longer apply. Those with a vested interest in the established order argue that any change will have a negative if not a disastrous effect, and all their energy goes into preserving a status quo that in this case (we believe) simply cannot be preserved.

Leaders who allow this polarization to develop will find their organizations expending enormous amounts of energy on a fruitless game of tug-of-war that can only end with half their team (probably corporate IT) sprawled, defeated and wet, in the symbolic stream that divides the two sides and the other half (the end users) gloating over their victory and in possession of the symbolic rope—which, if they’re left to their own devices, will certainly be enough to hang themselves with.

The organizations that will adapt most quickly and successfully are the ones that do not frame this shift in black-and-white terms. Transformation doesn’t come from running willy-nilly into the void, and maintaining the security and integrity of your environment won’t be achieved by rejecting everything new that comes along. The key to capitalizing on change is to remain open to it, gather as much information as you can about what’s happening and why, encourage debate and then adapt appropriately. For advice on how to do this, read Worthen’s article.

Don’t make this IT’s Last Stand—that won’t be good for anyone.